Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembering Danny LaRue

Courtesy: Glen Charlow
with his dresser and pal, Annie
The Queen's Sister (2005) (TV)

Danny La Rue: [Princess Margaret has seen Danny naked; he proceeds to cover himself up] What are you doing here?

Princess Margaret: Don't worry, Danny, I've seen a queen's crown jewels before!

 Danny LaRue was one of the greatest ENTERTAINERS that ever lived!

Danny La Rue, (26 July 1927-31 May 2009) was an Irish-born British entertainer known for his singing and "drag"  impersonations.Great as a Lady but he was an even Greater Man.

Danny La Rue was one of the most popular and prolific entertainers Britain has known.Having enjoyed phenomenal success in almost every aspect of Show business with six smash hits West End shows among his credits, Danny achieved International stardom  in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada  Australia and New Zealand.

He appeared in Hello, Danny! a biographical show which performed at Benidorm Palace, Spain on 11 November 2007.

That was his last public appearance.

The part of La Rue was played by Jerry Lane, and La Rue appeared at the start of the show and then in an interview on stage in the second half.

He also performed a number of songs, including Jayne County's "Queenage Baby", accompanied by Dave Peterson to a sellout crowd.

He was all about making people leave the theatre on a high. Like Liberace, underneath all the glitz was a man with a beating heart.

Sadly, that heart stopped beating three years ago today. He was 81 and died of cancer.
So today, I celebrate Danny LaRue. Sir Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson commonly known as Bruce Forsyth, or Brucie, an English TV personality said,"He was a great showman and his nightclub in London was the place to go when you were having a special night out.

La Rue was the youngest of either four or five siblings. The family moved to England when he was six and he was brought up at Earnshaw Street in Soho, central London.

 When the family home was destroyed during the Blitz, his mother, a seamstress, moved her children to Kenn, a Devon village where young Daniel developed an interest in dramatics.

 "There weren't enough girls so I got the pick of the roles ... My Juliet was very convincing", La Rue recalled. From a childhood spent in the unlikely surroundings of London's Soho, through wartime evacuation to Devon and then service in the Royal Navy, Danny's youthful years were busy and happy-a perfect preparation for the arduous show business life he was to take up later.

He served in the British Royal Navy as a young man following his father's footsteps, and even had a brief career delivering groceries, but he became known for his skill as a female impersonator (or "comic in a frock" as he preferred to be called) in Britain and was featured in theatre productions, and in film, television, and records.

The family home was bombed during the Second World War and the Carrolls were evacuated to the Devon countryside, young Danny had very strong feelings for the stage. He played the female lead in three Shakespearean school productions.

At the age of 17, he volunteered to join the Royal Navy, and on his first ship discovered his talent for drag during a party in Singapore. Wearing a white bedsheet tied round him like a sarong, he camped up the role of the native girl Tondelayo from the Hollywood film White Cargo.

He shone with Hollywood femininity , but underneath the gowns and glamor, Danny was a genuine fella, says Michael Billington.

He tried to make a go in show business for five dispiriting years to no avail. He reluctantly took Harry Secombe, an unknown comic, who scathingly urged him to give up show business.

Danny took that advice and resorted to making his living as a window dresser for Oxford Street stores.

That decision soon after is part of showbiz history.

Danny was spotted arranging a window by an old friend who needed a stand-in drag act at a Leicester Square revue that evening.

 'You remind me of Paris and the Folies Bergere,' his benefactor told him.

'You're so long and lean in your feathers and plumes, I thought I would call you Danny The Street - Danny La Rue, in French.'

In a glittering and glamorous career, he has established himself as one of the most popular and prolific performers Britain has ever known.


Noel Coward called him "The most professional, the most witty...and the most utterly charming man in the business"

Dame Anna Neagle echoed "One of the kindest and most generous men I've ever met".

In a career that spanned five decades, Danny LaRue's success was phenomenal. Until he could no longer entertain, he toured Britain in his own show. He was probably the biggest star to come out of that old English tradition, pantomime.

It was just announced last month that Danny is to be featured in a new series from Sky Atlantic, a British company, will be celebrating gay performers in British entertainment.



The three-part series will cover the period between Queen Elizabeth's coronation and the present day.

 "It will be a celebration of achievements and career highlights, as well as a history of how gay rights and our perception of gay performers has changed over the last 60 years."

La Rue would often perform parts of his show in men's clothes, and was often seen out of costume on television. In later life, he was more candid about his private life, including his homosexuality. La Rue lived for many years with his manager and life partner of 40 years, Jack Hanson, until Hanson's death in 1984.

Jack Hanson was a rugged 33-year-old ex-commando from Leeds whom he met in a pub.

Hanson became Danny's full-time managerand soon the glamorous drag queen was appearing all over the West End.

La Rue as Widow Twanky in the London Palladium production of Aladdin

Julian Clary is among the stars expected to contribute, while the three episodes will profile the likes of Carry On stars Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Williams, stand-up and actor Frankie Howerd and entertainer Larry Grayson.

 On the West End stage he triumphed in seven major shows including Come Spy With Me at the Whitehall Theatre, The Danny La Rue Show at the Prince of Wales Theatre, and Aladdin at the London Palladium.

 After the 1966 musical Come Spy With Me, with Barbara Windsor, Danny became the hottest ticket in London. Shows were written just for him and he packed one of London's largest theatres, The Palace, for two years.

In 1968 his version of "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep" reached number 33 in the UK singles chart;La Rue later adopted the song as his theme tune.

 He appeared in Every Day's a Holiday, The Frankie Howerd Show, Our Miss Fred, Twiggs, Decidedly Dusty, Entertainment Express, Blackpool Bonanza and the BBC Play of the Month. He made a guest appearance in the Mr. Bean episode, Mr. Bean in Room 426 in 1993. His role in the the musical Hello, Dolly! - the first time a man had played Dolly - which was planned to revive his career, was savagely panned by the critics.IAnother Dolly, Betty Grable, was a personal friend of Danny's. 

She often visited his West End  nightclub.

Betty Grable
"Betts", as he called her had opened in "Hello, Dolly!" in Las Vegas and, typically of Danny, he had sent her his personal good wishes from one "Dolly" to another. Betty was already dying from cancer. So great was her affection for Danny that she wrote to him thanking him for contacting her unfortunately on the day the letter arrived, Betty passed away.
 
David Merrick went to London to ask Danny La Rue to replace Pearl Baily on Broadway.Danny wrote in his autobiography that his turning Mr. Merrick down was the biggest regret of his career. He didn't feel that his style of acting would translate as well to American audiences.

Worse was to come. On a visit to New Zealand, Hanson suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and collapsed in Danny's arms.

He would go on to have an affair with Australian pianist Wayne King, 26 years Danny's junior- after that affair ended, the two remained on speaking terms. A few years later, in 2000, Danny jetted out to visit King in an Australian hospice. He discovered, to his huge distress, that his friend's weight had plummeted to just over two stone.

'He had to be buried in a child's coffin,' Danny later revealed, grief-stricken.

He died of AIDS.

At the height of his fame Danny La Rue, held audiences spellbound - dominating the stage with his blonde wigs, platform shoes, pink ostrich feather fans and huge plumed headdresses which made him more than seven feet tall.
as Dolly Parton, Photo credit: Richard Mawbry

Bob Hope described him as 'the most glamorous woman in the world'.

 Whatever his title, audiences loved him.  His jokes were often on the edge, but never smutty. 'I went to the Palace,' he would declare, 'and the Queen said: "Kneel." I said: "If I'd known it was that sort of party, I would have come earlier!" '
A multi-millionaire with his own West End nightclub, he also owned two hotels, luxury homes in Hampstead and Henley-on-Thames and a 12-bedroom chateau in the South of France.

 Among his celebrity impersonations were Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marlene Dietrich, and Margaret Thatcher. At one point he had his own nightclub in Hanover Square, and also performed on London's West End. In the 1960s he was among Britain's highest-paid entertainers.

He used to own the Swan at Streatley hotel in the 1970s.

 He also has the distinction of being the only man to take over a woman's role in the West End theatre when he replaced Avis Bunnage in Oh, What a Lovely War! and he was until his death still a regular performer in traditional Christmas pantomime shows in Britain.

In its eight years' existence, Danny's West End nightclub attracted royalty, Hollywood stars and ordinary people in the thousands-and became one of the show business spots of the 1960s.

In the 1970s La Rue spent more than £1million on the purchase and restoration of a country house hotel, Walton Hall in Warwickshire. Due to his performance commitments, he decided to sell the business in 1983 and two Canadians offered him a deal by which, if the hotel retained La RueÕs name, he would become the major shareholder. The duo claimed that they would invest a further £3million in the hotel and that they had organized a scheme for flying guests in from America, so La Rue signed the hotel over to them. Six months later he discovered that the two Canadians were being investigated by the police and that his name was linked to the investigation. La Rue was eventually cleared of any suspicion but the day after his 56th birthday he discovered that he had lost more than £1million.

Long before there was Lily Savage, La Cage aux Folles or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, there was Danny La Rue. Danny's achievement ) it is hard to think of him as Mr La Rue) was to have taken female impersonation out of the clubs and pubs, and into the theatrical mainstream. In his heyday, he could fill West End theatres and was ever popular on TV shows like The Good Old Days. Danny disliked the term "drag artist". In essence, he was an old-fashioned music-hall performer with an outsize personality and a big heart.(Source: The Guardian Theatre Blog by Michael Billington)

Unfortunately, three years before he died, his last home - a modest Southampton bungalow - went under the auctioneer's hammer, he was forced to sell off his favorite memorabilia. La Rue suffered a mild stroke in January 2006 and all of his planned performances were cancelled. He had several subsequent strokes. He died at his home shortly before midnight on 31 May 2009 at the age of 81 after suffering from prostate cancer. His companion, Annie Galbraith, was with him at his home in Kent when he died.

Despite his financial problems, Danny always remained a star in the dressing room, insisting on opening a bottle of champagne for every visitor - right to his last performance.

He was appointed OBE,  Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in the 2002 Queen's Birthday Honours List. La Rue later stated in an interview that this was "the proudest day of his life". Other accolades included Royal Variety Performance appearances in 1969, 1972 and 1978, Variety Club of Great Britain Showbiz Personality of the Year (1969), Theatre Personality of the Year (1970), Entertainer of the Decade (1979) and the Brinsworth Award from the EABF for his outstanding contribution to the entertainment profession and the community. The beginning of the end came after his beloved ten-year-old terrier, Jonty, died. After being felled by a stroke Danny made the move into his friend and dresser'Annie Galbraith's spare room. Having worked with him on stage for 27 years, she looked after him through the bitterest lows right to the end.

At the end, he tried in vain to beat the cancer that eventually killed him. In Danny's autobiography, From Drags To Riches,  he told his own remarkable story.

I cannot capture Danny LaRue's amazing life and career in one blog. I have relied on Wikipedia, articles, and Danny LaRue Friends And Fans on Facebook. If there is anything here you would like to add or change. Please don't hesitate to tell me.

Thank you Danny for the gifts you gave and continue to give to the world!







With grateful XOXOXs ,
I want this to be a definitive account of Danny LaRue  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Danny's, I'm interested in speaking with you!  Do you have any pics? If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

Please join me on Sunday for a very good cause!
June 3
1-4pm
GREAT PAINTED PAW BRIGADE, 22-24 New Main Street Haverstraw, N.Y. 10927
PUBLIC ART INSTALLATION & AUCTION
First of its kind in Rockland County, N.Y. Public Arts Project. Gallery Opening Friday March 2, 2012 7pm-9pm Haverstraw Arts Alliance. Auction: Sunday June 3, 2012 Union Restaurant 1pm-4pm Village of Haverstraw, N.Y. For details visit: www.paintedpawbrigade.com OR e-mail: rod58@optonline.net

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
                 
Tomorrow's blog will be..YOU TELL ME! I'M OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS!!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


  
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!





TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!











Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hello, Judy! Judy Norton as Dolly Levi


Judy Norton is probably best known as Mary Ellen Walton, the eldest Walton,  from the smash TV drama The Waltons. This show happened to be one of my favorite shows. Growing up in a small rural environment in the south, I identified with this show.

I was surprised to find out that Judy has also appeared as Dolly Levi! Three times on stage AND she also directed a production of Hello, Dolly! When we sat down to discuss her memories, it was like sitting down with an old friend.
The first time she appeared as Dolly was in 2003. That was with Galveston Island Musicals.
As I’ve written previously, both Marilyn Maye and Nancy Sinclair also appeared as Dolly there.
Obviously, Dolly was a huge crowd pleaser and money maker there.
Judy tells me it was her first job offer via e-mail. A dear friend of hers, Jack Daddoub, who she had appeared opposite in 1984 in a production of Annie Get Your Gun. Judy was Annie and he was Buffalo Bill. Jack was a wonderful New York Broadway actor.  Jack and Judy stayed in contact and over the years, he would send her these postcards.
These postcards always reflected and were about the musicals he was doing in Galveston.
He kept telling her how much he enjoyed working with that company and that he wanted to give them her materials. He felt that she would love working there as well. 
She sent that along and never heard anything. 
In 2003, she receives an email from the producer, Mike Skiles, saying that their mutual friend Jack Dadboub had recommended her and that they were doing, “Hello, Dolly!” and asked if she would be interested in playing Dolly.  She asked if it was an “interested check” or an offer.  He said it’s an offer. She called Jack and asked if this guy was for real.  She asked Jack to tell her about him. Jack said they are lovely people and that she would  have a great time there. That was the beginning of it. She has had a great time with that company and that producer which has now lasted eight years as writer, actress, director.

That company transformed itself into Texas Family Musicals and started doing productions in other cities. She would go on to appear as Dolly at the Grandbury Opera House in Grandbury.
Last summer, she directed productions in both the Grandbury Opera House and in Lewisville, Texas.
When the show moved from Grandbury into Lewisville, she went into the show as Dolly. A first, going into a show that she had directed.
I asked Judy if she had ever seen Carol Channing play the role. She did not. She has met her through Harlan Boll. Judy said she was lovely, warm and sweet.  She suddenly had a sense of what Carol’s appeal in the show was.  She has no doubt that Carol’s performances exuded these qualities.
“She is so embracive of life and people and I am sure that these people were in her audiences were blessed and must have felt as if she were holding them in her arms. She has that bigger than life presence.
I remember reading an article on her once where she said when she was first approached about doing Dolly, that she insisted upon auditioning.
She wanted to convince the creative team that she WAS RIGHT and that she COULD do it.” Judy has never forgotten that. “It showed a lot of integrity. I don’t know that I could be that way! I want the job.”
Interestingly enough, Carol was the ONLY one of the Broadway Dollys who actually auditioned for the role.
All the rest were handpicked by Mr. Merrick.
Over the years, Judy’s Horaces have included Sean McGirk…”who is a fabulous actor”; he resides in the Boston area, Steven Einspahr,  and Jared Benn last summer.
Out of these productions, the one that stands out the most is probably the first production because it WAS the first. It was really a great combination of all of the elements coming together, the director, the choreographer, the ensemble. The director, Cailin Haffernan, gave everyone a lot of freedom.
She did not want to copy what had gone before.  She didn’t want the cast to get locked into anything. Judy’s only frame of reference was the movie.  She had never seen it done on stage prior. She happens to like the movie. She realizes that many people don’t like the movie but she is a big Barbra Streisand fan.

She thought it was fun and liked what they did with it. Cailin sat down with Judy and the cast and said, “Let’s just explore these characters.” Judy felt less pressure because of that because she is not Carol Channing. She felt that it was a very challenging and daunting prospect to take on this role.

Judy knows that women with very big personalities had taken on this role in the past. Carol Channing, Joanne Worley, Ginger Rogers, etc. As a performer, Judy does not think of herself that way. It does not fall into the category of roles that she is typically cast in and it scared her. “How do I find that character?” She spent a lot of time doing her homework so that she became that character rather than a caricature. That was her challenge and Cailin made her feel very safe and comfortable.  She felt that there was no judgment or expectation for her to live up to some image of what that role should be. Working opposite Sean was wonderful with that great comic sense. He gave her great motivation on stage. He made it fun.
Each of these runs were short lived due to the fact that they were stock and regional companies. Sometimes just one or two weeks. Each time the opportunity presented itself again, she could now come in and say this is now familiar yet new.
Cumulatively, it feels like I’ve done a long run of Dolly! Traveling, there are pros and cons to being away from home. 
Obviously, you don’t have the comfort of going home after a long day and being with your family. Living on the road can be lonely. Your life sort of stops in many ways. That’s difficult.
Your focus is locked into the project that you are working on at that moment. For the shorter runs, that’s fine. You’ve barely gotten out of rehearsals, when 24/7, you have to be focused on the show for that production. When it is a longer run, you begin to twiddle your thumbs with “What am I going to do now” during your “down time”, especially in a town that can be explored in fifteen minutes. Being a writer, Judy devotes a lot of that time to her writing.
In those situations where Judy is directing, there’s less time for that. A director’s day is much longer than an actor’s. Again, her focus ends up being on the show and less on her.
She doesn’t have those thoughts running through her head that she is dropping the ball as a wife and a mother, that dinner isn’t on the table, my son needs to go here or there, etc. There’s none of that pressure weighing down on her of her trying to handle everything as she normally does. 
Directing takes away a little bit of that pressure and makes it easier for her in terms of being on the road.
These productions were done with orchestrated tracks beautifully done with the London Symphony Orchestra. (These were done for Marilyn Maye originally). That becomes challenging when it is not designed with your voice in mind.
Sometimes her voice is just “ghosted” in the track when the music is quiet.  It’s her timing, her stylings. Learning the tracks, it’s not the same approach you learn normally.  Judy actually learned it from Nancy Sinclair’s performance.
Nancy, who is also a friend of Judy’s, sent her a video to work off of. She called Nancy for advice when she was hired to do the show.  So Judy was “copying” Nancy “copying” Marilyn! Therefore, it was very challenging.
When Judy directed the show,  she advised the actress playing Dolly that these tracks were very tricky. The actress initially said “No problem!” That quickly became, “These tracks are tricky!” Judy said, “I told you!”
One night when Judy was playing Dolly, during the “I Put My Hand In” sequence when she is speaking with Ambrose and sending him out to get tickets for the train, something happened. In that sequence, Dolly sends him out a couple of times. 
He keeps coming back with different excuses.  He runs off and she is the only one on stage and she goes completely blank!  She had no idea what was coming next! These mere seconds on stage felt like hours!
She stood there questioning why she was there. Was she supposed to be talking or singing? There’s a tag on the song, “I twist a little, stir a little”…maybe that was what she was supposed to be doing! Perhaps she was standing on the wrong side of the stage!
The track was orchestrated in a way for Dolly to speak/sing her way into that tag. It’s just a bell tone.  She started to sing very slowly the beginning of the tag. No music came on! Instead of the sound person realizing what was happening and following suit, and skipping to that moment, he didn’t. Judy realized it wasn’t the right spot for the tag.
She stood there thinking “Obviously, I’m not supposed to be singing; what am I supposed to be saying?” This whole sequence probably was all of 10 seconds but felt like ten minutes. Judy was all alone and left to her own devices. Judy doesn’t remember what she said that got her on track, but the muses intervened and she proceeded as usual.  It wasn’t “deer in the headlights”. Judy is very comfortable on stage, so when that happened, she didn’t panic.

Since performing as Dolly, Judy has only seen one other production of Dolly. An older comedic actress but not well known.
Working on Dolly gave Judy a whole new way of doing her homework to prepare for a character. Doing television, you end up, most of the time, playing characters that are much closer to your comfort zone. For Judy, she goes in and ends up auditioning well for those. Those are easily in her “tool kit” and she has no trouble pulling those off.
She feels that her strength is in certain types of roles. Dolly being more “out there” and through her exploration was able to discover that any character is in her given different “life circumstances”.   

What would Judy’s life circumstances need to be in order to play that character? What would have to happen for her to do the things Dolly does or acts the way she does?
In finding that and understanding that for her, as an actress, and making that as big as she wanted it to be for her has served her well in going forward with her career. She feels that there are no longer limitations that she had previously put on her as an actress.

I asked what strengths Judy feels that she brought to Dolly both as an actress and a singer. She feels that she is a stronger singer than some that have played the role. “Many actresses have played the role that are able to carry a song. Mostly because of their personalities.  Marilyn Maye, of course, is a singer.
It is not all that taxing of a score to sing. But I feel that I brought more of a musicality than some.  I also don’t consider myself a big personality. Therefore, I had to find other elements and dimensions to Dolly to make her work for me. I had to bring additional pieces to her beyond the front she puts on for everybody else. I tried to bring glimpses of who she was when she wasn’t ‘on’. “
Having done the show as an actor, Judy knew as a director that there were certain elements that you must adhere to within the framework of the show. Judy also serves as an acting coach and helped each of the actors find what worked best for him or her instead of what was pasted on. She likes for herself as an actress and as a director to find what is “real” in the characters. No matter how big these characters are, they are real people.
She prefers that they not just go for the comedy, but rather to just go for the truth and reality. What’s driving them? Her goal as a director was to get to that core. She had great actors that were willing to take that journey with her and she was able to bring some truth to these characters.
Judy feels, unfortunately, that the industry is being pulled further and further from the “art” to business people who are running the show since she first made her debut. It is now more about dollars and cents rather than the creative.
“When a creative area is being dictated more by bean counters, the craft and the product suffers.”
Judy understands the economics of “you gotta make money”.   She really tries as a writer and as an actress to be aware of those concerns.
She also feels that you do the best darn production you can on stage and on screen within the budget you are given.
When she was doing Dolly during one of her productions, they had practically no set. She looked at her choreographer and said, “We are creating a great show!
They sing well. They dance well. The story moves.  People aren’t going to notice that there isn’t a big multi-million dollar set. If the audiences are worrying about the set, we didn’t do our job.”  Judy feels that as an artist, she is trying to tell stories and move people.
She feels that when it becomes just about making money, you lose that. She would rather have less money on a nice project where it can find its audience of people who like it as opposed to worrying about something having to be a blockbuster where you have to hire a name” that isn’t right for the role but everyone will come out to see that name.
Maybe they can’t act or sing, but they’ll sell tickets. It’s also problematic when there are too many cooks or committees.
When she was doing The Waltons, as the seasons progressed, the network brass became more and more involved in every minute detail of production. The creative people ended up having their hands tied as to what they could or could not do because someone new was now saying something could no longer be done. “You can’t hire THAT person. You must hire THIS person.”  It really has hurt the industry.
In closing, Judy says “Hello, Dolly!” is just one of those shows that audiences LOVE. No matter the production, it always works.
It is a show with a lot of heart and it always amazes Judy how well it still holds up almost fifty years later. AND it is fun to do. She doesn’t know if there is more Dolly in Judy’s future but one can always hope. Once she is there, she is ALWAYS there!

Thank you Judy for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world!








With grateful XOXOXs ,
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Hello, Dolly!, I'm interested in speaking with you!
Did you work on any of these productions of Dolly personally? Do you have any pics? If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!




Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
                 
Tomorrow's blog will be..MORE DOLLY MEMORIES!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


  
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!





TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!






Monday, May 28, 2012

Carole Cook: The SECOND Dolly from Hello, Dolly!


Photo courtesy: Carole Cook
Down a red staircase, laced with gold, comes the magnificent figure of Dolly, looking for all the world like Mae West in her heyday.
The second actress to descend the famed Harmonia Gardens stairs was also a Carol(e), this time with an E! In addition to “almost” sharing the same name as the original Broadway Dolly, she also shared something with the international Dolly, Mary Martin. They were both Texans. Carole hails from Abolene Texas.
Wiggling her way down the stairs on to a ramp, this Dolly poured her heart and soul into the number, from which Hello, Dolly! boisterously took its name.
This was a sequence that would galvanize Her Majesty's Theatre in Sydney, Australia night after night for nineteen weeks starting in March of 1965.
This Dolly was tremendous and the waiters…well, they could have danced all night.
Carole Cook led the Australian company of Hello, Dolly! playing Dolly to her fingertips, burstin’ with LIFE a fulfilling warm, natural cash register instincts.  After the time she did the show in Australia, she went to New Zealand for six months to do it there...in Auckland , Christ Church and Wellington...two months each city. 
Photo courtesy: Carole Cook
One of the most unforgettable scenes in musical comedy would probably be the moment when the curtains part atop the stairs of the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant and Dolly Gallagher Levi appears in her gloriously red dress with plumaged headdress... Dolly in Jerry Herman’s hit "Hello, Dolly!" Channing was the first, winning a TONY Award for her performance in 1964. Cook was the world’s second Dolly, having run almost as long in Sydney as Channing did on Broadway.

The role for this production was offered to Julie Wilson told me that she was pregnant at the time. Her husband told her that he would leave her if she left to do this production. With one son, and a baby on the way, she chose family over career.
Julie Wilson
After Julie turned the role down, a search like none since the search for Scarlett O’Hara took place. 
Over three continents, Australian producers JC Williamson Theatres LTD searched. At the advice of Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman, Carole Cook flew into New York to auditions for JC Williamson Theatres AND Mr. Merrick. Mike Stewart had written "Red Hot Mama” for Carole several years before when they were both hungry. He thought of her as Dolly and requested she fly in to audition. She did AND she got the part. With true Texas tenacity, Carole refused to let the odds discourage her-and with true Texas luck, it paid off.  The odds were definitely against her. They wanted a MAJOR NAME! 
She auditioned on a Sunday and got the part the following Tuesday.  She HAD played Dolly Levi previously in The Matchmaker in 1961 at the Dallas Theater Center and then she toured with the show. 

This bigger and brighter Dolly Levi would open in Sydney on March 26th, 1965 for nineteen weeks; then Melbourne for another nineteen weeks.
Lucille Ball as Carol Channing!
Carole is a red-headed, green-eyed American film and TV personality. It was Lucille Ball who suggested she take the professional name of Carole as a tribute to her own idol, Carole Lombard. Carole’s real name is Mildred Cook. She became one of Lucille Ball’s protégés, and did small parts.

Audiences knew of her through film roles such as Don Knotts' long suffering wife in The Incredible Mr. Limpet and she also appeared opposite Connie Stevens and Troy Donahue in Palm Springs Weekend.  
Audiences also knew of her because of her recurring role on Lucille Ball’s hit series, The Lucy Show. Lucille Ball discovered Carole and became her mentor and friend. As a matter of fact, Lucille Ball was Carole Cook’s matron of honor when she married her husband, Tom Troupe.  Carole told me, "when you have Lucille Ball as your matron of honor, NO BODY even knows you're there!"
Their best man was TCM’s Robert Osborne.  

Lucille Ball had formed a group of young performers to become the nucleus of her Desilu Stock company.
When Carole found out that her idol, Lucille Ball, was calling her to go out to Hollywood for a screen test, she originally thought it was a gag. Lucille Ball had called Carole to ask her if she would like to go to Hollywood and make a test after reading a review of Carole's from Annie Get Your Gun.
Carole remembers vividly her arrival in California. When she got to Lucy’s home in Beverly Hills, Lucy told her that the maid would take her luggage to the guest house.  Carole had seen movies where the maid would unpack someone’s suitcases and lay things out but this was really happening!   Carole told me, "When a performer is on the road, she is either traveling or rehearsing or acting. I carried the bags and unpacked myself because I was mortified at the thought of someone going through her personal items." 
THAT is how Carole got to Hollywood! Thank you, Lucille Ball!!

All of that was four years prior to Australia and Hello, Dolly!

Variety: January 22nd, 1965:  
Carole Cook Doing 'Dolly' Down Under
Fred Herbert leaves for Australia this weekend to direct the first foreign production of "Hello, Dolly!" to open in Sydney Mar. 27 at Her Majesty's Theatre.
Down Under edition of the Broadway smash will be presented by J. C. Williamson. Carole Cook, an American, will do the Carol Channlng role.
When Carole opened in Dolly! at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Sydney on March 25th, 1965, the top ticket price was $6.00 and they broke box office records! Newspapers heralded this production as one of the best to reach Sydney stages in years. She would spend the next 16 months in Australia, both Sydney and Melbourne.
Variety: April 8th, 1965
DOLLY' OFF TO SMASH
START DOWN UNDER
Sydney, April 8.

"Hello, Dolly" got away to a smash start at Her Majesty's, Sydney, for J.C. Williamson Ltd. at $6 top. Critics gave the show rave reviews and hinted it might run at least two years at this house. American stars Carole Cooke, Jack Goode and Bill Mullikin scored major hits with patrons
and the press. Fred Herbert directed, with Betty Pounder handling the choreography. Understood Williamson layed out a production figure of $130,000 on "Dolly."




"A PERFORMANCE OF HEROIC ENERGY AND AUDACITY!                                                                                                                                                                                                 Dolly has the asset essential to success in
the gaudy, knowing, attention-compelling personality of Carole Cook. With the red-hair and man-eating smile
of a beautiful fox, she took charge of the evening as greedily as the authors undoubtedly intended!"
—MORNING HERALD, Sydney (March 1965)
Carole was joined  in this company by Jack Goode as Horace Vandergelder. When they opened, they would spend the next two years as Dolly Levi. 
“CAROLE COOK IS A GLOWING CANDELABRA OF
ALMOST FEROCIOUSLY OUTGOING GOOD SPIRITS!
A magical kaleidoscope of colours... memorable,
exciting, extravagantly exuberant. Her speaking voice is an orchestra in itself... she exploits wholesome
sexuality. You won't see a star performance twinkling
more positively than hers!"
-CHEF STCHUECM PRESS, Nmo Zealand (Mm 1966)

with Jack C. Goode





"THEY JUST WENT MAD OVER THIS DOLLY!
The ovation from a stamping, shouting, standing
crowd was testimony that never before in the history
of Auckland show business had anyone so completely
and triumphantly captured an audience as Carole
Cook. Unforgettable... a magnificent piece of
barnstorming, the zany zest of which swept the
audience before her all the way!"
-AUCKLAND STAR, New Zealand (Feb. 1966)
"A STUNNING RED-HAIRED BEAUTY!
The second actress in the world to play the musical
Dolly, she deservedly brought the house to its feet."
—THE AUSTRALIAN, Sydney (April 1965)


Thank you Carole Cook for the gifts you gave and continue to give to the world!
Dining with Tom Troupe and Carole Cook






With grateful XOXOXs ,

I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Hello, Dolly!, I'm interested in speaking with you! Did you work on any of these productions of Dolly personally? Do you have any pics? If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

THURSDAY NIGHT!!!!!
May 31
7:30pm
CHICO'S HOUSE OF JAZZ, 631 Lake Ave., Asbury Park, NJ 07712
RICHARD SKIPPER: AT LAST!
ReVision Theatre and the City of Asbury Park couldn't have a better summer kickoff! After introducing ReVision Theatre to the great City of Asbury Park 5 years ago, Richard Skipper returns in "Richard Skipper: At Last". Richard is the perfect start to the musical summer of 2012 in Asbury Park. For more information visit www.revisiontheatre.org or call us at 732-455-3059. To purchase $15.00 General Admission tickets please visit http://revisiontheatre.tix.com.
This show is not to be missed! Musical Direction by: Rich Siegel



Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
                 
Tomorrow's blog will be..Judy Norton as Dolly Levi!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!



  
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!






TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!